There is something beautiful about Canada’s engineering graduation tradition, the Iron Ring and the Ritual Calling of an Engineer. Some UVA Engineering students want in on the idea, albeit in their own way.
The students — computer science and mathematics dual major Ryan Torbic, aerospace and mechanical engineering dual major Caleb Mallicoat, computer engineering major CJ Rogers and systems engineering major Nick Scoggins — are trying to create a UVA Engineering version of the Ritual Calling of an Engineer. The team designed a ceremony as a final project in Department of Engineering and Society professor Kathryn “Kay” Neeley’s section of Science, Technology and Society 4600: The Engineer, Ethics and Professional Responsibility.
Canada’s Ritual Calling of an Engineer, also known as the Iron Ring Ceremony, is a private service in which students graduating from Canadian engineering programs receive an iron ring and recite an obligation to be conscientious and responsible in their professional duties. The ring, to remain on the pinkie of the wearer’s working hand, is an ever-present reminder of the pledge.
The writer and poet Rudyard Kipling designed the ritual in 1922 at the request of the past presidents of the Engineering Institute of Canada. The presidents took the action in response to engineering failures in the construction of the Quebec Bridge, which had claimed dozens of lives.
Neeley’s assignment required student teams to present on a topic intriguing enough to want to know more about, and that “promises to provide resources for your own moral imagination as you encounter ethical challenges and make major decisions in your career and life.” She included the project on a list of ideas when she handed out the assignment, but noted that it had originated among students during a group discussion earlier in the semester. She was thrilled when a team picked the topic.
“It had the potential to be a really interesting expression of Virginia engineering identity,” Neeley said.
The team chose the project topic in part to celebrate their shared experiences, Torbic said. “We’ve all found the School of Engineering to be an incredibly tight-knit group, and it seemed natural to want to celebrate us making it to the finish line.”
Scoggins said the emphasis on building community within the practice of engineering was also attractive. “We hoped to design something similar to the Ring Ceremony, but with a conscious emphasis on ethics and moral practices within the specific community of engineers at UVA,” he said.
To achieve a uniquely UVA Engineering character, the team incorporated the school’s core values — societal impact, leadership, innovation, excellence through diversity, and collegiality — into the ceremony and its visual representation. In lieu of a ring, they envision each student receiving a cube paperweight with the sides inscribed with the values.